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School Curriculum

Volume 561: debated on Monday 22 April 2013

12. What steps he plans to take to ensure that all children receive a broad and balanced education that includes the creative subjects. (152085)

All publicly funded schools must teach a broad and balanced curriculum, and Ofsted has a duty to inspect this. We have announced that maintained schools will continue to have a statutory requirement to teach music and art and design from the ages of five to 14. Curriculum entitlements are also in place at key stage 4. Funding agreements with academies and free schools also require them to teach a broad and balanced curriculum.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. Bearing in mind how important the creative industries are as far as our exports are concerned—just to be pragmatic about this—will he give some assurance that music in particular will continue to play a part, and how will composition and other musical skills be developed at key stages 1 and 2?

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. First, I thank Darren Henley for his report on music education, which we have had a chance to implement and which has helped influence our own approach to the national curriculum in music. We want children to learn to appreciate, but also to create, which, of course, involves learning composition skills. We also want to make sure that that is done in harness with the new music hubs that are being created. “Hubs” is not a pretty word, but they are a beautiful thing, because they are bringing instrumental tuition to many more young people.

Recently the Children’s Commissioner found that girls and boys too often do not know what a good relationship looks like, so, as part of a broad and balanced curriculum, why is the Secretary of State refusing to make sex and relationships education compulsory in our schools? Is he aware that this vacuum is currently being filled in some areas by extremist groups, which are targeting vulnerable young girls with racist literature that claims to keep them safe? If he is as horrified by that as I am, is it not time to act?

I am absolutely horrified by the extremist activity that the hon. Lady alludes to and if she could share that material with me, we will make sure that action is taken.

22. My right hon. Friend will be aware that his former Schools Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb), looked into the rating of sex and relationship education in schools, particularly primary schools. At the moment this is an area that is completely unregulated and I know that the Government have been trying to make some moves to get the British Board of Film Classification to look at it. Does the Secretary of State plan to make some progress? (152097)

Yes, we do. My hon. Friend makes an important point. As the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) pointed out, we need to make sure that children have the information they need in order to make confident choices. We also need to take account of the fact that technology is changing rapidly. We all know some of the challenges that young people face—as a parent, I know them myself—and it is vital, as my hon. Friend says, to make sure that we do everything we can to keep inappropriate material away from children.

The Secretary of State knows that extended days are very important in getting quality education in the wider curriculum, so will he continue to back strongly Durand academy in its desire to have a boarding element in Stedham? Does he agree that this will be a wonderful opportunity to extend the academic achievement of those young people?

I owe a debt to the hon. Lady, because it was she who first invited me to visit Durand academy in her constituency. To this day I am grateful, because it is an outstanding school with a wonderful team of teachers. The fact that it is thinking of opening boarding provision for children after the age of 11 is a bright ray of hope. It is a pity that some unfortunate words have been said—[Interruption.] All I can do is quote Cardinal Newman:

“Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom”.

The same spirit of that great pioneer of education is operating in Greg Martin’s Durand school. I hope that it will come to Sussex as well.